An increasing number of travelers are heading to the nations of South America, and it’s not hard to see why. Places like Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, and Peru have so much to offer in terms of culinary delights, exciting festivals, cultural experiences, sightseeing, recreation, relaxation, and more. Brazil is one of the very best examples, with this South American nation being renowned for its vibrant atmosphere and world class beaches.
With some of the best parties and nightlife in the world, Brazil often attracts young travelers and groups of friends looking for good times, but it can also appeal to couples, families, and elderly travelers too. Whether you’re roaming the streets of Rio, climbing up to see the Christ the Redeemer statue, taking part in a fun parade, or exploring the Amazon, Brazil has plenty to offer. Here’s all you need to know about currency in Brazil.
Official Currency in Brazil
The official currency used in Brazil is the Brazilian real. This currency has been used in Brazil since 1994. The symbol for the Brazilian real is R$ and its ISO code is BRL. A single real is divided up into 100 centavos. The plural of real is reais.
The Brazilian real is in the top 20 most traded currencies in the world and is issued by the Central Bank of Brazil. A single Brazilian real has recently been worth about $0.25, but its value rises and falls over time, just like many other currencies.
Coins and Notes in Brazil
Like many currency systems used all over the globe, the Brazilian real features a mixture of both coins and notes. Here are the coins you can see being used in Brazil:
- 1 centavo (no longer being produced
- 5 centavos
- 10 centavos
- 25 centavos
- 50 centavos
- 1 real
As stated in brackets above, the 1 centavo coin is no longer being made, but there are still many in circulation. In order to try and reduce the usage of this coin, most retailers and restaurants now round their prices to the nearest 5 or 10, so you may not need to use any 1 centavo coins you come across.
All of the Brazilian real coins are quite easy to identify. They're clearly marked with their monetary value and also feature images of famous figures from Brazil's past like Pedro Álvares Cabral and Emperor Pedro I. The coins are also different colors, being made of different metals, but they're all circular in shape.
As well as the coins, you can find these notes being used in Brazil:
- 2 reais
- 5 reais
- 10 reais
- 20 reais
- 50 reais
- 100 reais
The notes for the Brazilian real are easy to identify as they each have their own color. The 2 reais note is dark blue, the 5 reais note is purple, the 10 reais note is red, the 20 reais note is yellow, the 50 reais note is brown, and the 100 reais note is sky blue. The notes also become larger as they gain value. They all feature an image of the Efigie da Republica (Head of Republic) on one side and various animals on the other side.
Using Credit Cards in Brazil
Brazil is developing into one of the world's major global powers, with big boosts to its economy being seen in recent years. As the nation has developed and adopted new technologies, the usage of cards has become more frequent. You can pay for most things in Brazil's big cities by card, but you may be charged a fee by your bank for each purchase, so it's wise to consult with your bank and see what options you have before you travel.
You'll also find a lot of ATMs around Brazil, so it's always quite easy to withdraw cash as and when you need it. If you're traveling out to smaller towns or villages, cash will be the preferred form of payment and cards will be less likely to be accepted. It’s wise, therefore, to always keep some cash on your person, just in case you enter a shop or restaurant where cards aren’t taken.
Using US Dollars or Other Currencies in Brazil
You may find that US dollars are accepted at some stores or hotels in Brazil, especially in Rio, but in general, the real is the only way to pay.
Tips for Currency in Brazil
Don’t forget the following tips and advice when paying for goods and services on your Brazilian vacation:
- ATM scams are actually quite common in Brazil, along with credit card fraud, so you need to be careful. Try to avoid outdoor ATMs whenever possible and don’t use any machines if you can see people hanging around near them or acting strangely.
- Let your bank know that you’re going to be traveling before you leave for Brazil so no strange alerts or warnings appear when you try to use your card.
- ATMs will usually give you the best exchange rates, so if you want to get the best value, using an ATM to withdraw cash in Brazil is often better than getting your own currency converted elsewhere.
- Try to keep a good mixture of notes and coins on your person at all times. The coins can be useful for small purchases or tips, and the notes are always good to have around for the stores and restaurants that don’t take cards.
- Tipping isn’t a big part of Brazilian culture, but in touristic areas, service workers have come to expect tips from foreign visitors and will always be grateful for a little extra cash. You may find that some restaurants add a 10% charge onto your bill for gratuity. It’s not compulsory to pay this 10%, and you shouldn’t pay it if you received bad service.